Swedish bass guitarist Jonas Hellborg has the knack of being in the right place at the right time when it comes to meeting reputed musicians; in 1981, after he played solo bass at the Montreux Jazz festival in Switzerland, he was introduced to guitarist John McLaughlin and other fusion stars. He was soon asked to join a reformed Mahavishnu Orchestra in 1983. He stayed with McLaughlin until 1988, touring and recording with Mahavishnu Orchestra, and playing several duet tours with McLaughlin. On one such tour, in Italy, Hellborg met the legendary drummer Ginger Baker (1939-2019) and for years afterwards the two played a lot together. When Hellborg was recording his first international album, Axis (Day Eight Music, 1986) and needed assistance, he received it from Parliament Funkadelic founding member Bernie Worrell (1944-2016) who played keyboards. Although the current album, recorded on July 4th 1987, is the first release by the trio of Hellborg, Baker and Worrell, it is no surprise. Being labelled "ex- Mahavishnu," "ex-Cream" and "ex-Funkadelic," this trio was a ready-made supergroup (remember them, ELP lovers?) One of the trio's travels brought them to the 1987 Bracknell Jazz festival and, in the days after it, they recorded for three days at a studio called Marcus Music where a friend of Hellborg, Tim Hunt, was engineer. The resulting tapes were secreted away until they were recently rediscovered. Hollborg mixed the album in July 2021, which suggests that Covid may have had some responsibility for this album. Sadly, neither Baker nor Worrell lived to see its release or promote it. Four of the album's five tracks are credited to Hollborg, the exception being the McLaughlin composition "Zakir." The album opens in fine style with the fourteen-minute, three-part "Moon Suite." From the start, it is clear that this is a trio of equals, with each player being clearly heard and having space to solo occasionally. The first part of the suite is laid back and gentle but on the second part everything moves up a gear and a few decibels, raising the excitement level, without becoming bombastic; the third part is calm again, allowing the detail of each instrument to be clearly heard; altogether, an impressive piece. "Zakir" follows, and re-sets the calm meditative mood in which solosmost notably an extended one from Hellborgcan be savoured. The rest of the album is rhythmic and almost demands to be danced to. Given Baker's links to Africa, begun in the '70s, it is unsurprising that his drums are the driving force of the album's longest track "African Genesis" which is thrilling and highly danceable throughout, with Worrell sounding in his element. Although far shorter, "Ashhark" is just as compelling and propulsive. The album closes with a piece titled after Tim Hunt, one which ensures the album ends on a high. Given the success of The Concert of Europe we must hope that Hellborg discovers more such treasures in those tapes from 1987.
Moon Suite P.1; Moon Suite P. 2; Moon Suite P. 3; Zakir; African Genesis; Ashhark; Tim Hunt.
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